“Peace in Europe cannot be achieved against Russia but only with Russia”; that was the prevailing conviction of Germany’s leading politicians after the end of the Cold War – particularly among the leadership of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Until today, the tradition of Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik (Eastern Policy), which was rooted in the mindset that “change through rapprochement” (Wandel durch Annäherung) was possible in the Soviet Bloc, is still “uncritically held up as a trademark of Germany’s Social Democratic Party,” five renowned social-democratic historians wrote in an open letter to the party’s Executive Committee. The letter criticizes the fact that there has been no honest reappraisal of the SPD’s Russia policy.

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Germany’s post-Cold War Russia policy, the so-called “New Eastern Policy” (“Neue Ostpolitik”), marketed under the adapted motto “change through trade” (Wandel durch Handel), also invented by Social Democrats, was equally shared by the coalition government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

True, the present chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has proclaimed a “turning point” (Zeitenwende) after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. But according to the above-mentioned SPD historians a “real turning point” would require one thing above all: “An understanding of the fact that Russia has been waging a hybrid war against Europe for many years [italics added].”

EU Counterparts Warn Hungary Not to Neglect Ukraine Aid
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EU Counterparts Warn Hungary Not to Neglect Ukraine Aid

Hungary's Finance Minister presented his counterparts with Budapest's priorities during its time at the helm but maintaining the 27-nation bloc's support for Ukraine was noticeably not listed.

European arms deliveries to Ukraine are still wrongly seen as “arms aid” – instead of being understood as part of Europe’s self-defense.

The “security interests” asserted by Russia, which are allegedly threatened by NATO’s eastward expansion, are not “legitimate” at all – as is sympathetically argued by some SPD politicians and left leaning intellectuals. They are a pretext for Russia’s expansion to the west as pursued by its neo-imperialist ruler Vladimir Putin, who does not want to live in “coexistence” with the West, but wants to extend Moscow’s sphere of influence (i.e., control) to the west. The restoration of a Great Russian Empire in Europe by a megalomaniac successor to Russian tsars must be prevented by all means: Neo-imperial Russia must be “contained”! (in the spirit of George F. Kennan).

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Ukraine is defending itself against its subjugation under Russian rule. But Ukraine is not only defending itself; by defending itself against Russian aggression, Ukraine is defending Europe. “The existence of the European Union is at stake in Ukraine,” the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, declared. The revisionist Putin is striving for the restoration of Russian rule over the whole of East-Central Europe – as it existed after the Second World War. Putin is pursuing the renewed division of Europe – a “Yalta II.”

A lukewarm West

Due to the half-heartedness of the West, particularly due to the nonsensical incrementalism of both the American President Joe Biden and the German Chancellor Scholz, in supplying high-tech weapons in due time, Russia – after the withdrawal of its army from the northeast – was able to continue the war in the southeast of Ukraine as a war of attrition with the calculation of having the longer breath thanks to Russia’s incomparably greater resources in men and material. It is the fault of the West which – fearing direct involvement in the war – equipped Ukraine too late and inadequately with modern weapons, that Ukraine is losing ground now in the northeast again.

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What is needed now is the fastest possible delivery of the most modern weapons available in Western countries to the Ukrainian army. The sooner this happens, the sooner the war will be over – and the fewer soldiers dead.

Admittedly, Berlin is now acting more decisively than at the beginning of the Russian invasion, but there is still a dangerous gap between words and deeds: “We stand together!” and: “Our history will continue together,” he declared. The German Chancellor does find the right words; but he does not keep up with the deeds that necessarily have to follow. Scholz is plagued by fears that Ukraine could use German weapons (i.e., the air-to-surface cruise missile “Taurus”) on Russian territory, thus making Germany a party to the war.

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One reason for the gap between words and deeds may lie in the German chancellor’s misjudgment of Putin's goals: In his conversation with US President Biden in February 2024, Scholz said, that the Russian President Putin was only interested in getting "a piece of territory from his neighbor". This is a major misconception that perhaps explains why Ukraine is not being supported by the West in its defensive struggle to the necessary extent. Putin does not want “a piece” of Ukraine, which Scholz and Biden might one day be inclined to give him “for the sake of peace”; Putin wants to incorporate the whole of Ukraine into Moscow’s realm of power.

In the German public debate about arms deliveries to Ukraine, the Bundeswehr’s own requirements are increasingly being played off against Ukraine’s needs. The realization has not yet taken hold that in view of the common threat posed by Russia, it no longer makes sense to separate Ukraine’s needs from the “own needs” of the European NATO members. European arms deliveries to Ukraine are still wrongly seen as “arms aid” – instead of being understood as part of Europe’s self-defense. 

At the 60th Munich Security Conference in 2024 Chancellor Scholz described Russian aggression as “the most important security policy challenge.” The Western states had not understood that Russia had been preparing for this war for many years, he said. They had continued to act as if they themselves could continue to live in peace.

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But in some respects, it seems as if in Berlin – and in Washington – the objective of the West’s military support for Ukraine is no longer the hitherto proclaimed war aim, that “Russia must not win” and “Ukraine must not lose” the war, but that Russia must not lose it – for fear of an escalation of the war or of its endless duration.

In fact, Western arms aid to Ukraine has been deliberately limited – in terms of quantity and range – to the extent that Ukraine does “not lose the war.” This is an indication of the strategic short-sightedness of the authoritative governments of the West. The realization that a Russian victory in Ukraine would be a direct military threat to Europe, i.e., that Ukraine must not only “not lose this war,” but must win it, has not yet been fully internalized by leading European politicians.

What if Russia wins?

Should Russia win its war of aggression against Ukraine, the consequences for the Ukrainian population would be unrestrained retaliation. Putin will take revenge for the fact that the alleged Ukrainian brother people did not welcome his “liberation army” with bread and salt, but bravely resisted it. What the Ukrainian population has to expect from Russian occupation became evident in the occupied cities immediately after the invasion: war crimes and crimes against humanity of all categories.

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If Russia wins this war, Putin will turn Ukraine into a “Gulag Archipelago” – a large penal camp. The number of refugees proves how real Ukrainians believe this prospect to be. After a Russian victory, another 10 million people or more would probably flee Ukraine to the West, which would lead to (an intended) chaos in the European Union. If the EU does not want the number of refugees to rise, “it must now help Ukraine to win its defensive war,” explained migration expert Gerald Knaus.

Putin’s war against Ukraine is an attack on Europe; military support for Ukraine is therefore an imperative of European security.

If Putin wins his war of aggression against Ukraine, then war will once again become what it was in the past: the “continuation of politics by other means.” It means that borders can (again) be changed by force with impunity. Russia’s neighbors would then be permanently threatened.

In geology, the physiographic name "Ukrainian Shield" refers to the Ukrainian Crystalline Massif. Metaphorically speaking, the "Ukrainian Shield" is Europe's military defense shield against Russian neo-imperialism.

Putin’s war against Ukraine is an attack on Europe; military support for Ukraine is therefore an imperative of European security. Europe must make a concerted effort to ramp up its arms industry and even convert civilian industries to a war economy – as was done by the American President Roosevelt after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. There is no security for Europe without Ukrainian victory.

What Ukrainian victory means

A Ukrainian victory over Russia does not mean an invasion of Russia by the Ukrainian army; the Russian invasion and occupation forces must be defeated on Ukrainian soil. Their positions in Ukraine must be made untenable so that they have to withdraw.

Ultimately, Putin will wage war as long as he stays in power. Therefore, the cost of war for Russia must be drastically increased. Ukraine must not only be defended by extensive military support from the West – “whatever it takes” (Joe Biden) and “as long as it takes” (Olaf Scholz) – but Ukraine’s victory must be militarily ensured. In order to save Ukraine from annihilation and to ensure Europe’s security Russia must be defeated in Ukraine. 

It will cost the West a lot of money – and Ukraine a lot of blood. But the Ukrainian people knows from historical experience that “there is no freedom without blood” (Svobody bez krovi ne buvaje), as the protagonist in the historical film “The Battle of Kruty” (January 1918) painfully understood.

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post. 

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